But the Nats have not yet played crisp, smart consistent baseball. They run the bases like they are blindfolded at a toddler’s birthday party. Granted, the Nats are no longer doubled off base on every infield lineout and pitchers sometimes remember to cover first base. Drew Storen held a runner close enough to be thrown out stealing, a franchise watershed. But the Nats are 27th in fielding; only Ryan Zimmerman has a doctor’s excuse.
Flaws and all, the Nats have enough functioning parts to make that late run — though barely. Rookie Tanner Roark (5-0, 0.94 ERA), even when he comes out of the clouds, has shown the command and stuff that succeeds. The bullpen isn’t balanced, but Craig Stammen, plus Store-Clip-and-Save may be enough. That leaves Dan Haren. For a month, Dr. Jeykll had a 1.32 ERA, a 4-0 record and an extra-inning save. The rest of the year, the Nats have gone 5-17 in Mr. Hyde’s starts. Haren’s last three starts may determine whether Mike Rizzo has insomnia for years. If you add an aging pitcher after an injured off year and have little insurance behind him, you better be right.